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From Weakness to Strength: Leveraging Technology Against the Challenges of Container Drayage

December 8, 2023

When you think of the containerized supply chain, what do you imagine? Do you picture an ocean vessel traversing vast distances along popular trade routes? Or do you envision a railcar chugging through mountain passes? While these long-distance movements may be what most people think of when they consider the containerized supply chain, they’re only a player in a much larger, infinitely complex supply chain ecosystem.

In this ecosystem, among the most essential components is drayage. While drayage doesn’t spring to mind as quickly as a massive container vessel or powerful freight train, it plays an invaluable role in moving freight from one modality to another. Drayage, the short-distance transportation of a chassis-mounted shipping container from one transportation hub to another, is the lynchpin that enables the multimodal transportation that the global supply chain and the broader global economy rely on.

However, while drayage plays an integral role in the supply chain, it also is a significant pain point for many shippers. In crowded logistics hubs, drayage can often present a challenge for transportation professionals. Containers can easily be waylaid by missing chassis, and rising demurrage and detention costs can quickly become a significant draw on shippers’ bottom lines.

Drayage, then, presents shippers with a double-edged sword: entirely essential, but a dangerous vulnerability. So, what are shippers to do?

Increasingly, shippers are turning to innovative container drayage software to keep track of shipments during this crucial moment within the larger transportation process. Leveraging these recent innovations in container drayage software, shippers can keep a close eye on shipments during the drayage process and stay up-to-date with all recent developments within their transportation process.

In this article, we’ll cover the key challenges facing container drayage shippers, the importance of leveraging real-time visibility to optimize drayage operations, and the benefits of tech-enabled container drayage optimization. 

For Today’s Shippers, Effective Drayage is Easier Said Than Done

There’s no doubt that drayage is an irreplaceable step in the transportation process. Without reliable access to drayage transportation, shippers would find it impossible to take advantage of the vast network of intermodal transportation connections that form the backbone of the global transportation industry. However, drayage — also known as the ‘first mile’ of the transportation process — presents a range of significant challenges to shippers. By identifying and understanding these challenges, shippers can better understand how a tech-enabled container drayage optimization strategy can help them build a better supply chain in a difficult market.

Drayage Capacity: Easier Said Than Found

According to reporting from Transport Dive, the transportation industry needs to replace roughly 1.2 million truck drivers over the next ten years to replace an adequate number of drivers, with the goal of avoiding a projected shortfall of 160,000 drivers by 2031. While there has been some progress through pay incentives and crowdsourced driver solutions, the persistent driver shortage has greatly affected short-haul trucking services, like container drayage transportation. Shippers are often left unable to navigate increasingly complex supply chains without adequate capacity. This can end in drayage containers being held up for hours, if not days, at busy transportation hubs, resulting in costly port fees, spoiled supply chains, and disgruntled customers.  

Poor Communication Leads to Poor Performance

While the persistent driver shortage may be a considerable thorn in the side of shippers looking to improve container drayage logistics, poor communication strategies can result in even more damage to fragile supply chains. Without adequate communication, shippers often fail to collaborate with transportation partners beyond the port. These breakdowns can result in high-stakes drayage container shipments being left to rack up port fees as transportation stakeholders scramble to find an adequate solution. 

Without Drayage Visibility, Shippers Are Left in the Dark

Ultimately, many of the common problems plaguing shippers during the high-stakes container drayage process can be reduced to a single word: visibility. Often, container drayage operations create a sort of ‘black hole’ for container drayage shipments, with shippers reliant solely on intermittent carrier communications, manual check calls, and other outdated communication techniques. Based solely on inadequate visibility strategies, shippers are left without an accurate understanding of container drayage operations and thus incapable of taking control over their high-stakes container drayage shipments. 

Facing High-Stakes Challenges, Shippers Turn to Innovation to Optimize Port Drayage Operations

It’s clear that ocean drayage presents a challenging landscape for today’s shippers: from poor collaboration to a lack of visibility, poor control over container drayage operations comes with a high price for shippers. Increasingly, shippers are turning to tech-enabled strategies to optimize their drayage operations and mitigate the steep risks associated with container drayage. By leveraging a drayage container software platform, shippers can ensure that drayage is an opportunity to provide their customers with unparalleled transportation rather than a headache. Through a partnership with a container drayage software provider, shippers can access three key features to tackle the biggest challenges in port drayage. 

Optimized Collaboration Takes on the Driver Shortage

As the driver shortage continues to plague short-haul container drayage operations, shippers are under increasing pressure to find strategies to ensure reliable, prompt ocean drayage transportation. With an application programming interface (API), shippers can fully integrate container drayage software into their existing TMS (Transportation Management System) for maximum collaboration with all supply chain stakeholders. With streamlined collaboration, shippers can easily keep tabs on high-stakes drayage shipments before unloading, allowing them to work with partners to ensure adequate container drayage capacity–including chassis and driver–is ready and waiting. 

Real-Time Alerts Keep Stakeholders in the Know

Shippers struggle to gain insight into high-stakes container drayage operations without adequate communication strategies. Traditional communication strategies leave shippers struggling to catch up to transportation events. This delay between event and notification can easily lead to demurrage and detention charges and, ultimately, poor customer experiences. To mitigate this, shippers increasingly turn to container drayage software providers offering real-time exception alerts. With real-time exception alerts, shippers are automatically notified of the events that affect ocean drayage transportation, including:

With fully customizable exception notifications, shippers can rest easy knowing they’re up to date with the latest events in their high-stakes port drayage operations. 

End-to-End Visibility Ensures Maximum Resilience

As with most supply chain issues, the common problems in the container drayage process are rooted in a need for more visibility. Without adequate visibility, shippers are helpless to collaborate with transportation partners. Furthermore, a lack of visibility can quickly lead to a lack of accountability — a frightening prospect as customer expectations for visibility continue to grow. Through a partnership with a reliable provider of container drayage software, shippers can access true end-to-end supply chain visibility, ensuring that shippers maintain complete transparency from the first mile to the last. Shippers can build the resilient, transparent supply chains their customers expect by leveraging container drayage visibility alongside intermodal visibility. 

The Future of Drayage: Integrate to Optimize

In the digital supply chain, integration is essential to success. Customers have higher expectations for supply chain performance, transparency, and accountability than ever. As a result, shippers are increasingly reliant upon streamlined, fully-integrated visibility platforms to maximize supply chain effectiveness. Shippers are ensuring they remain competitive in an increasingly streamlined digital supply chain ecosystem by turning to a single-source visibility provider capable of providing visibility across all containerized intermodal operations. Through a fully integrated API, shippers can leverage innovation to stand out in the digital supply chain.

  • Enhanced Customer Service through white-label portals allows shippers to customize their visibility interface, ensuring a consistent customer experience from the first click.
  • TMS Integration means that shippers can create seamless workflows between their pre-existing TMS and container drayage visibility software, allowing them to keep what works and change what doesn’t.
  • Integrated Analytics give shippers a birds-eye view of their operations, helping them assess operations quickly and make high-stakes transportation decisions to stay afloat in a highly competitive logistics landscape.

Shippers can integrate their way to unprecedented efficiency in complex supply chains by using innovation to build better container drayage operations. 

Turn Your Pain Point into a Success Story: Partner with OpenTrack for Drayage Container Visibility

For most shippers, drayage is a vulnerability: an opportunity to lose time, efficiency, and customer trust as the drayage container racks up port fees and per diem charges. By partnering with OpenTrack for unprecedented, real-time container drayage visibility, shippers can turn their port drayage operations from a pain point to a success story. By partnering with OpenTrack, shippers gain access to a robust suite of container drayage software assets:

  • Real-Time Visibility 
  • 000Integrated Exception Alerts
  • Streamlined Platform Optimized for Collaboration

Book a demo with OpenTrack today, and see how fully integrated container drayage software can help turn your container weakness into a supply chain strength.

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